July 29 (UPI) -- More than 40% of staff members at long-term care facilities across the country are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to figures released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Just over three-quarters of physicians working at nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, assisted living facilities and other residential complexes designed to provide long-term care are fully vaccinated, the data showed.
However, fewer than 60% of nurses and fewer than half of aides employed at these facilities have completed the vaccination process, meaning they have received both doses of the two-shot Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, the agency said.
"[V]accination disparities among job categories likely mirror social disparities in general, as well as disparities in the surrounding communities," the CDC researchers wrote.
"One concern is that nurses and aides ... who have the most patient contact, had the lowest vaccination coverage," they said.
Given that COVID-19 outbreaks have occurred in long-term care facilities "in which residents were highly vaccinated, but transmission occurred through unvaccinated staff members," this could leave these complexes at risk for future outbreaks, according to the agency.
Through Wednesday, just over 49% of people nationally were fully vaccinated against COVID-19, including about 58% of those age 12 and older for whom the shots have been cleared, the CDC estimates.
Nearly 80% of adults age 65 years and older have been fully vaccinated.
Older adults and those with chronic health conditions are at increased risk for severe illness and death after coronavirus infection, research suggests.
Despite restrictions on outside visitors to long-term care facilities that house these vulnerable populations, dozens of nursing homes across the country saw large-scale outbreaks and significant fatalities.
The findings in this report are based on reports from 300, or about 2%, of long-term care facilities nationwide, according to the CDC.
Between March 1 and April 4, these facilities reported that, collectively, 22,825 of 40,212, or 57%, of their on-staff healthcare personnel had been fully vaccinated.
This included 57% of nurses and 46% of aides employed at these facilities, the CDC said.
"Residents of long-term care facilities and healthcare personnel who work in these facilities were prioritized for early COVID-19 vaccination," the agency researchers wrote.
"Achieving high coverage in this setting is critical to preventing additional outbreaks," they said.